If you can get down earlier in the week, a must do event is a dinner hosted by some of the South’s most accomplished chefs, all of whom are James Beard Foundation award winners. Together, they compose a dinner that showcases each of their individual styles of cuisine but curated nicely to all work in unison. The dinner is paired with exceptional wines and provides an intimate and enjoyable way to kick-off the weekend. Photo: [From left to right] Chefs Ashley Christensen of Raleigh, North Carolina; Anne Quatrano of Atlanta; Linton Hopkins of Atlanta; Christopher Hastings of Birmingham, Alabama; and Mike Lata of Charleston.
Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge works with The Inn at Palmetto Bluff to curate poignant discussions with some of the event’s featured Southern chefs, like Tyler Brown from Capitol Grille in Nashville (pictured here). Together the pair banter back and forth as they share stories on their culinary careers and styles while teaching the audience about certain foodways and serving them a taste to enjoy during the demo.
This year, attendees were surprised with a new location for the popular kick-off party: the Potlikker Block Party. The new home was an open field located a few blocks away from the Inn that features an oversized treehouse and some of the largest oak trees around. Each tree was lit head to toe and the entire backdrop was magical. The party had all the right ingredients: barbeque and Southern fare, great wines and spirts, a lively band, and a pause in the program to capture a new documentary by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Best of all, guests had a chance to meet some of the visiting chefs, winemakers, and culinary professionals in town for the event as they, too, could be found eating, drinking, and enjoying the evening.
Rodney Scott is one of the hardest pitmasters in the business. He is among the first to arrive at Music to Your Mouth and spends the first 48 hours working around the clock, tending and cooking his hogs. He is one of the stars of the opening night Potlikker Block Party. The line is long for this whole hog, which comes with some white bread and cracklings and it is well worth the wait.
If you can handle it, one of the best ways to work off what you ate and drank the night before is to wake up at the crack of dawn to run in the Haire of the Dog 5K. The race winds you through the property and allows a chance to get a daytime view of the year-round residences, expansive parks, and open land inside Palmetto Bluff. It is fun to do with a group of friends who keep you motivated along the way, and a fresh bloody Mary awaits your arrival and helps get you started for the rest of the day.
If you only can attend one event of the weekend, it should probably be the Culinary Festival on Saturday. This event can accommodate several hundred patrons, but it never feels crowded or oversold. A large tent hosts over two dozen of the South’s best chefs as they serve small bites showcasing what to expect at their respected restaurants.
It is impossible to eat everything, but definitely sample the bacon that’s strung in between the trees (a particularly popular attraction). In between nibbles, you can visit a few dozen wine makers and professionals serving up some of the best wines around. The Bushels, a popular bluegrass band, plays throughout the day, and outside the tent are a variety of artisans selling some amazing products; Billy Reid, Middleton Made Knives, Ya’llsome, and Bittermilk, to name a few. There is also a beer garden and inside a nearby church where you can take a break, eat popcorn, and watch Southern Foodways Alliance documentaries.
Tickets are hard to come by, security is fierce (so don’t even try to sneak in), and the only way to arrive is by trolley, but the finale event — an Oyster Roast at Moreland — is always a spectacular night. After walking through some woods, you arrive to a part of the property that feels more like an upscale, private retreat. There are a few hut-like structures housing either bars or bands, and in between is a variety of seating and stations filled with any kind of Southern-style food you can imagine; seafood, fried chicken, brisket, and Low Country boil.
A large oyster cooker is in the back of the property and the staff will shovel a fresh batch in every few minutes. There is a smaller treehouse where, if you make it to the top, you get a glimpse of the May River and its expansive views. And just before you leave, you’ll all gathered into a field for a performance by a surprise musical guest. For 2014, Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr., and her husband, Chris Coleman of Kings of Leon, entertained the audience for hours, which was the perfect way to end the weekend.